Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide is one of my all time favourite books (my review). Ghosh is a great writer and I decided to share with you more about this author and his highly acclaimed novels. No doubt many of you have read something by him before, if not, I recommend discovering his books. Ghosh was born in Kolkata, India in 1956 and has studied in Dehra Dun, New Delhi, Alexandria and Oxford. His debut novel was The Circle of Reason published in 1986 which won the Prix Médicis étranger, one of France’s top literary awards. And since this first novel he has continued to write award winning novels. His 2nd novel, Shadow Lines, published in 1988 is on the Princeton Reading List for Comparative Literature and which won him the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1989. He has also written a number of non fiction works but his most notable works are the novels; The Glass Palace, Sea of Poppies, and River of Smoke.
Here is a taste of Ghosh’s wonderful writing from The Glass Palace (2000) from the author’s website:
‘There was only one person in the food-stall who knew exactly what that sound was that was rolling in across the plain, along the silver curve of the Irrawaddy, to the western wall of Mandalay’s fort. His name was Rajkumar and he was an Indian, a boy of eleven – not an authority to be relied upon. The noise was unfamiliar and unsettling, a distant booming followed by low, stuttering growls. At times it was like the snapping of dry twigs, sudden and unexpected. And then, abruptly, it would change to a deep rumble, shaking the food-stall and rattling its steaming pot of soup. The stall had only two benches, and they were both packed with people, sitting pressed up against each other. It was cold, the start of central Burma’s brief but chilly winter, and the sun had not risen high enough yet to burn off the damp mist that had drifted in at dawn from the river. When the first booms reached the stall there was a silence, followed by a flurry of questions and whispered answers. People looked around in bewilderment: What is it? Ba le? What can it be? And then Rajkumar’s sharp, excited voice cut through the buzz of speculation. “English cannon,” he said in his fluent but heavily accented Burmese. “They’re shooting somewhere up the river. Heading in this direction.”
His Ibis Trilogy has been very popular among his fans and begins with Sea of Poppies (2008), followed by River of Smoke (2010), and the final book to be published in 2015 will be entitled Flood of Fire. In the article Fashioning Narrative Pleasures From Narcotic Ones by Chandrahas Choudhury you get a feel for the Ibis trilogy so far:
‘No writer in modern India has held a novelistic lamp to the subcontinent’s densely thicketed past as vividly and acutely as Amitav Ghosh. Since the publication of “The Circle of Reason,” in the mid-1980s, Ghosh’s work has been animated by its inventive collages and connections. “River of Smoke,” the second volume of his ambitious Ibis trilogy, is the work of a writer with a historical awareness and an appetite for polyphony that are equal to the immense demands of the material he seeks to illuminate. Like its predecessor, “Sea of Poppies,” this new novel fashions narrative pleasures from narcotic ones, exploring the fizzing currents of language, politics, trade and culture that swept through the vast opium network operated by the British East India Company in the 19th century. “Sea of Poppies” was set almost entirely in the cities, harbors and plains of India, the source of the poppies from which the opium was made. “River of Smoke” takes the action forward to the same opium’s destination, the Chinese trading outpost of Canton.’
Have you read anything by Amitav Ghosh? What was your favourite novel?